Hurlock receives $168,000 in grants for revitalization

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Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
State delegate for District 37b Chris Adams, standing, left, attended the Jan. 11 Hurlock Town Council meeting to introduce himself and answer questions.

HURLOCK — Big news at the Jan. 11 Hurlock Council meeting! Mayor Joyce Spratt said the town received a total of $168,000 in grants designated for revitalization projects. A $38,000 Community Parks and Playground grant will be used to demolish two buildings on Main Street and a park developed to replace them. A Community Legacy grant provided $50,000 for the revitalization of downtown with funds aimed at strengthening communities through business retention and attraction, encouraging homeownership and commercial revitalization.

A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) offered an additional $80,000 to address a wide range of unique development needs. According to Town Administrator John Avery, the town’s designation a few years ago as a “sustainable community” put it in line to receive funds via the Community Legacy program and “helped get us a grant.”

Hurlock now has $168,000 to use, said Mayor Spratt, “to bring everything up to date. With all of us working together we can see a huge difference in what the downtown area is going to look like.”

Cederick Turner, chairperson of the newly-organized Downtown Committee, invited the public to attend a meeting of the group on Jan. 19, 6 pm, at the train station to begin brainstorming how to improve Hurlock’s quality of life in the downtown area. Mr. Turner said the group hopes to work with town officials as a “quasi,” (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization). As a “quasi,” the group would be supported by the government but managed privately. Councilman Charles Cephas, who leads the committee, praised the “cooperation and good things happening in town” and emphasized “working together to be successful.”

Resident Pat Finley, participant in the Downtown Committee and chairperson of the Hurlock Citizens & Seniors Assn., noted the committee “needs lots of citizen involvement.” Similar groups operate with sub-committees assigned to different tasks as part of an overall strategy to build successful downtown centers and, she noted, that requires many people.

District 37b Delegate Chris Adams spoke to town officials and audience members to introduce himself and offer help in furthering the issues vital to the Eastern Shore. He said he is attending town meetings “to meet officials in the 23 municipalities in my district.” He expressed interest in the town’s issues and offered to bring them to Annapolis. He noted he “represents the small business person on the Eastern Shore. One chore is increasing economic development which adds to your tax revenues and growth for your county and towns.”
Councilman Cephas asked the delegate if the upcoming legislative session will offer a debate about the state mandate for sprinkler systems in new construction and certain renovations. Mr. Adams has offered legislation on the sprinkler issue and said, “I’m not debating if they are effective.” He is asking to let county councils and local jurisdictions make the decision. A builder, Mr. Adams keeps close track of legislation affecting the industry and noted that since July 1, 2015, only one building permit has been issued in Wicomico County. “The cost of $8,000 for a 1,200 sq. ft. house is too much to overcome. The appraisers don’t value the sprinkler systems so the homebuilder has to pay out of pocket. It hits the first-time homebuyer and the downsizer.” The cost of equipping wells with the necessary pumping equipment required for sprinklers in rural areas is excessive. “This is very much a rural county issue that I’m going to be pressing during the upcoming session.”

Mr. Avery reported that the new police department building is 50 percent completed and is expected to finish on schedule by mid-April. He said installation of 850’ of new water main is proceeding on Nealson Street. Two new fire hydrants are slated near the police building and two “low” hydrants will be replaced to better serve the area around Jeff’s Service Center.

Councilman Cephas requested a council work session with the Mayor and Town Administrator to discuss offering a slight reduction in water rates for residents. He also wants to review how the town bills for water usage and to consider “reconstructing” the method. The councilman emphasized budget constraints as well.

In July, 2012, a Banner story centered on resident complaints about “fairness” in charging for water usage. Since the town bills per cold water tap per household, the most frequently heard comment was that a home with eight taps and one resident pays the same as a home with eight taps and numerous residents. Complainants said that additional residents use more water than one so why not bill for the actual amount used?

In Hurlock, the water tower is connected to meters on each well pump station to measure water as the tower calls for it. Officials know how much total water is used. They also know how much water commercial ventures use because each is metered. However, residents do not know their individual water usage.

Results of a 2012 Banner survey among other small Maryland towns elicited a comment from Hancock Town Manager David Smith who said “Without meters there is no incentive to fix leaks or conserve water. Also, there is money out there to put meters in place from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and USDA Rural Development.”

Councilman Cephas said he wants to “give citizens a small break but not break the bank.”
Councilman Russell Murphy noted that he placed a Suggestion Box in front of his home on Dogwood Drive. He advised that any town resident, whether in district 3 or not, is free to use it for comments, concerns, and ideas. He promised that suggestions will be given to the appropriate council person.

On Feb. 11, at 6 pm in the Hurlock United Methodist Church, 502 S. Main St., representatives from Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) will present a seminar called “CHOICES/Part of the Solution.” Sponsored by Ministers & Citizens for Change, Inc. and People for Better Housing, Inc. the widely acclaimed program discusses heroin addiction, youth on youth violence, drugs and alcohol, and gangs. It is free and open to the public.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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